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‘Tis the season (almost) to get your outdoor kitchen up and running. (Photo credit: Brogan Lane)

As Americans have honed their outdoor cooking skills and broadened the barbecue menu beyond burgers and dogs, they’ve also amped up the backyard kitchen with task-oriented equipment. Gone are the days of being at the mercy of Mother Nature when it comes to controlling your fire or flame. Now there is a variety of fuel options, as well as ways to customize your prep spaces for staging and serving meals. Here are a few of the must-haves for any outdoor chef:

Cooking grills

Grills are the anchor of any outdoor kitchen and choosing one that can handle your needs and endure weather conditions is perhaps the most critical part of designing a kitchen. The options are many: gas/propane (tank or piped), charcoal, pellet and electric; standalone, built in or part of a cart system. There’s also a variety of styles: grill/smoker combos, Kamado grills and even flat-top griddles for searing, grilling and crisping, some with multiple temperature zones that allow you to cook different items at the same time. Around these parts, look no further than Herrick Hardware (41 Main St.) in Southampton for all you charcoal, gas, electric and natural gas grilling needs.

Kamado grills

A contemporary take on an ancient Asian cooking method, the egg-shaped ceramic Kamado grills, smokes and bakes. The cooking surface is encased in the “egg,” and accessed by lifting the hinged lid and styles come as standalone or built in. They are pricy; options here range from $999 to $2,600, with the “Classic Joe” being a popular, mid-price choice.

The Ninja Woodfire Grill  with integrated smoker is an electric-powered two-for-one table-top appliance (some models come with stands)., claiming to have the same performance and char as a full-size propane grill. A proprietary “Woodfire Flavor Technology Button” adds smoke during the grill, roast, bake functions. The basic model, per the manufacturer’s web site, is priced at $369 and the combo smoke ranges from $400 to $555. Here on the South Fork, Shinnecock East Ace Hardware (848 County Road 39, Southampton) typically has them in stock.

And outdoor pizza oven is a great addition to any outdoor cooking situation. (Photo credit: Erika Peters)

Pizza ovens

Dedicated pizza ovens have been steadily trending as a staple of outdoor entertaining, reaching the high temperatures needed for a crispy crust and perfectly melted cheese. Like other outdoor appliances, they offer different fuel options. Gas powered offers steady cooking temperature for even browning;  wood-fired will give a more traditional smoky flavor and the newer infrared models are fast-cooking. Styles and prices span a wide range; those made by Ooni are popular, starting at $299 and upwards to $899.


Side burners are helpful accessories for keeping the flame on sauces and accompaniments to what’s on the grill or other side dishes, eliminating the need to traverse from patio to kitchen during meal prep. Single, double or “power” burners are priced from $400 to $1,500 here. Coyote is a popular brand with a range of sizes, formats and prices.


Smokers are wildly popular not only because they deliver a great smoky taste, but because of their versatility. You can find a smoker fueled by pellets, gas/propane, electricity, charcoal or wood. You can also experiment with numerous smoke flavorings that are imparted during the slow cooking process, from boldly smoky and fruit to sweet or spicy. And, finally, it’s hard to think of a food item that doesn’t take well to smoking—from meats and seafood to cheese and vegetables. Highly rated are those from Dyna-Glo, ranging from $350 for the Wide Body Vertical Offset Charcoal Smoker to $783 for the larger Signature Series Vertical Charcoal Smoker and Grill. If you want to go super custom, check out the options from Pitts and Spitts, a Houston-based family-owned manufacturer of all things outdoor cooking.

Smokeless firepit

Smokeless firepits let you enjoy the ambience of a fire without getting smoke in your eyes. ­Great for sitting around the campfire, cooking hotdogs and marshmallows on a stick, and making s’mores, but some models can accommodate grill or griddle kits for cooking over the open flame. There are wood- and propane-powered pits. The Solo Stove Yukon 2.0 is a basic stainless steel wood-burning option for $415 on Amazon; the 27-inch Breeo X Series at $599 is more of a splurge, but is a good-looking, more decorative option.